"The Children of Israel...made Baal-Berith their god."
Baal-Berith means "lord of a covenant" or the "god who enters into a covenant with his worshipers. He was just one of many gods chosen from surrounding cultures that the Israelites worshiped at different times and caused them to wander away from Yahweh. There is little history of Baal-Berith and no description of him. According to Mela and Pliny, he received his name from the Phoenician city of Berytus. The Phoenician historian, Sanchoninatho, believed that his name came from the Phoenician deity, Beruth.
Also, there is no recorded religious ceremony associated with his worship. Either the Shechemites or the Israelites built a temple to him at Shechem (Judges 9:46). And some Bible scholars believe that the Jews imitated their religious rituals of Yahweh with this new god in his temple.
Baal-Berith is also known as Elberith, the covenant-keeping god, though it is unknown what kind of a covenant Israel made. The Vulgate understands it to be an agreement for Baal to become Israel's god. Some sources believe that Baal-Berith ruled over a league of Canaanite cities and that perhaps the covenant had something to do with Israels relationship with these Canaanite people or the Canaanite inhabitants of Shechem.
In ancient times, an alliance between two tribes would frequently be cemented by a common worship ceremony. The continued practice of this worship ceremony kept the agreement intact. Israel entered into a number of these political-religious alliances and it led them into idolatry.
One suggestion concerning what the alliance may have been was that the Shechemites traced their origin back to Hamor, which literally means ass. According to the Mari Documents, among the Amorites the expression "killing the ass" was synonymous with "making a treaty". Hence the "sons of Hamor" or "sons of an ass" may mean "members of a confederacy". Baal-Berith may have been the god summoned to witness such a treaty.
Copyright by Ancient Bible History - Eden Games Inc.